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Bathing Cap

A bathing cap has several purposes in triathlon swimming. In pool swims, it is often required equipment to compete. It helps keep hair out of the pool filtration system, and helps protect your hair from the effects of chlorine. In any triathlon swim event, open water or pool, a the right head covering makes you more hydrodynamic, decreases your drag, and keeps your hair out of your face.

A bathing or swim cap that comes down over your ears can help reduce your chances of getting swimmer's ear. To avoid swimmer's ear, which is an infection of the ear canal, you should look for a silicone or latex cap with ear pockets. Silicone and latex are waterproof, and the ear pockets help form a seal to keep water out of the ear.

Swim cap materials include latex, fabric and silicone. If you are allergic to latex, do not buy a latex bathing cap. Silicone fits snugly, reduces drag and resists snagging on your hair. Fabric swim caps are most often made from Lycra, but Lycra is not waterproof. However, if you have long hair, a Lycra swim cap will stretch most comfortably over your hair. Lycra also dries very quickly. If you want the drag resistance of latex, but are allergic, you may be able to tolerate the latex if you wear a fabric cap next to your head, and put the latex cap over it.

Neoprene swim caps are also available. Neoprene is typically only used in cold-water open swims as it can add 3-5 degrees of heat to your head. In a cold-water open swim, additional heat and heat conservation are very important. In warm water open water swims or pool swims, Neoprene is not recommended as you may overheat.

Some triathlon swimmers recommend you put talcum powder in your hair before putting on your cap. Reportedly, this prevents the cap from pulling and snagging on your hair, and aids in removing the cap quickly during the first transition (T1).

Other than a latex allergy, the material you pick for your triathlon bathing cap is a matter of personal preference and fit. The price for a swim cap is typically under $15. Lycra is the least expensive, and silicone if the most expensive.

Silicone brands include:

  • Aqua Sphere
  • Speedo
  • TYR

Lycra brands include:

  • Nike
  • Speedo
  • TYR

Latex brands include:

  • Aqua
  • Leader Sports
  • Nike
  • Speedo
  • TYR

Neoprene brands include:

  • Blueseventy
  • Body Glove
  • DeSoto
  • Orca
  • Zoot

The most appropriate color for your triathlon swim cap is any color except black, dark blue, brown and dark green. Color is less important in pool swim events, where the start is usually staggered, and the chance of collision is less. In open water swims, you want a swimming cap that will make you more obvious to other swimmers to avoid collisions. You also want a brightly colored bathing cap in case you start to drown, as it makes you easier to spot and rescue.

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